Kingdom moves forward in Moldova partnership
    March 2 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

    Aaron Wallace heard leaders of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) talking about the launch of a partnership between N.C. Baptists and the Baptist Union of Moldova in 2012, and it piqued his interest. Wallace, lead pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, saw this as a great fit for his church.

    A vision trip to the small Eastern European country convinced him to lead Hephzibah in a partnership with a northern region of Moldova on the Ukraine border. On the trip he met Moldova Baptist leaders, church planters, pastors and regional coordinators.
     
    But when he met Peter Mikhalchuk the connection to Moldova came alive. Pastor Peter, as he is commonly called, is an enthusiastic, deeply committed pastor who has served the northern region for more than two decades. His testimony includes opposition to his ministry from communists.
     
    When he began the work there was only one evangelical church for every 25 villages in the north. Today there is one church for every five villages.

     
    moldova3-2-15.jpg

    Contributed photo
    When the Hephzibah Baptist Church team departed Moldova, all 250 students from the camp overwhelmed them with cheers and high fives. Larry Lindsay, right, a Wake County high school teacher and coach, enjoyed the moment.

    “One of the reasons we chose northern Moldova is that we wanted to work with a pastor who has a vision,” said Wallace. “We wanted to work with churches that are willing to have ‘some skin in the game.’ We didn’t want to carry the whole load financially, but work with people would be willing to sacrifice. They have faithfully done that.”
     
    He added, “We found Pastor Peter and other leaders in Moldova to be very well equipped. We’re getting to join what God is doing, and we get to be part of the vision and direction of these pastors. Every time we go we see the kingdom moving forward.”
     
    Wallace understands that pastors in the states may be reluctant to commit to a partnership with leaders in another country. “For a lot of people the hesitation with missions is they get over there, the pastor is distant and things are not organized,” he said. That is not what he has seen. “Our experience is that there seems to be such a passion for outreach and discipleship. We feel like everything we’re investing in is productive.”
     
    Effective partnerships are not simply a relationship between two pastors. Lay leadership is a critical ingredient says Wallace. That’s where Steve Johnson enters the picture.
     
    Johnson, a member of Hephzibah, became a Christian after he retired from the Raleigh Police Department.
     
    “When I was a police officer, I was one of those guys that people said, ‘I hope he gets saved, but I just don’t know,’” he said. Johnson had a dramatic conversion, and now wants his life to impact others for Christ.
     
    “You never repay the Lord [for salvation] but you can always say ‘thank you.’ My hope is just to say ‘thank you’ every day to Him for what He has done for me,” he said. “The Lord placed on my heart the need to be a witness for Christ.”
     
    He began to witness and to train others to be a witness. The desire to better understand the Bible led him to enroll in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I got the MDiv in evangelism and biblical languages. So I’ve been teaching evangelism and going on mission trips,” Johnson said.
     
    When the potential for a partnership with Moldova surfaced, Wallace called Johnson, who had been on short term trips to Eastern Europe. “Aaron knew I had a heart for Eastern Europe so he invited me to go on the vision trip,” said Johnson.
     
    Now he coordinates the partnership that includes medical clinics, youth and sports camps for ages 16-22 and preaching events in churches. Johnson believes Hephzibah’s work adds strength to the pastors in Moldova. “We’re trying to help pastors have a better standing in the community in the face of the Orthodox Church. Pastors show the villagers the love of Christ. We help with medical missions and camps, then we leave, but [the pastor] stays and has better standing in the community.”
     
    A nine-day medical clinic is held each year covering 14 villages. The first year 550 Moldovan villagers were examined for a variety of medical needs including blood pressure and diabetes. Prescription medications that are not normally available are distributed by Ukrainian doctors who partner with the North Carolina team. During the 2014 clinics 650 people were served.
     
    The greatest expense of the clinics is the medicines. The church works with medical professionals in Moldova, sending money ahead of the teams so the medicine can be purchased all year long and stored up for the clinic. “There are no medical doctors in the villages and even if they have a doctor, they don’t have access to the medicines, so that makes the clinics important and effective,” Wallace said.
     
    Last year 115 people came to know Christ through the medical clinic and camps. Johnson said the local pastors are heavily invested in reaching teenagers. “The pastors bring the youth to the camp. Then they spend a week in the camp with the youth. Then they go back to their communities with a relationship with these kids that they built at the camp.”
     
    Pastor Peter reports that most of the decisions for Christ happen the week after the camp when they returned to the churches. “That shows that its not about presenting Christ and walking way,” Johnson added. “It’s about that long term desire to have discipleship that continues on in relationship-building.”
     
    Wallace said, “Our goal is long term discipleship. We want to help pastors [reach] people but also lead those people to be disciple-makers.”
     
    When Hephzibah church got involved in the partnership, there were nine regions in Moldova that needed to be adopted by churches in North Carolina. Seven of those regions now have committed relationships in progress. Two regions are yet to be adopted. The church’s goal is to help other churches build a partnership with a church in Moldova.
     
    Wallace said the needs are great in Moldova. Realizing the limits of his church in reaching everyone, he has an offer for North Carolina Baptists. “If any pastors or church leaders in North Carolina want to see what missions looks like in Moldova, we would like to invite them to go with us,” he said.
     
    “We’ll be glad to go a few days earlier and introduce them to the leaders and show them the needs. There are still two regions that have not been adopted in the partnership,” Wallace added. “We’ll be glad to show them what a medical clinic looks like. Please let us use our mission trips as a vision trip for you and your teams. There are other pastors across the state who are involved in Moldova and will be glad to help, also”
     
    Partnership missions has strengthened Hephzibah church. “We have watched our church grow through partnerships over the last four years,” said Wallace. “Last year we had more than 160 people who went on a partnership trip to Moldova or Canada. When you look at the giving of the church, I believe 80 percent of our people are financially involved in the mission of the church and praying for missions. That’s been huge for us.”
     
    Chuck Register, BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, said, “The church-to-church model that Hephzibah is exhibiting is at the very heart of what we are seeking to accomplish through the office of Great Commission partnerships. It’s where a church in North Carolina develops a church-to-church partnership with a congregation of a different people group or a different country that the most is accomplished for the Kingdom.”
     
    The BSC-Moldova partnership was designed to establish relationships between churches and to see churches in the state adopt all nine regions of Moldova. Register added, “There are two regions left in Moldova where we are prayerfully trying to facilitate additional church-to-church partnerships. If there is any way that we can resource such a partnership, we would love to assist North Carolina Baptist churches.”
     
    The partnership will continue as long as churches in North Carolina are actively engaged with churches in Moldova.
     
    For more information on how your church can join the partnership, contact Steve Johnson at Slj4him@live.com or Steve Hardy, at the Office of Great Commission Partnerships at shardy@ncbaptist.org.

    3/2/2015 3:17:29 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: ministry, Moldova, N.C. Baptists




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